by Kyle Koso
MARIETTA, Ga. -- When the 10u Slammers Altitude finally lost a game at the US Club Nationals, they had just four hits in the contest.
Next time around, and needing a win against Colorado stablemates 10u Slammers Nolte to claim the 10u title, the Altitude had four hits in the first inning and scored four runs.
The quick start and a determined effort through to the final inning sent Altitude to a resounding 17-7 victory Saturday at the East Cobb Complex, as the winners plated 11 runs in the final two innings to put the game away. Alex Wells had four hits, three runs and three RBI, Easton Haas added three runs and two RBI, and Ben Knutson had three RBI for the Altitude, who fell to the Nolte squad 5-2 to force the "if" game in the double-elim format.
In the first inning, Knutson drove in two runs with a single, and a double from Dalton Marsh made it 3-0. Landon Holmes added an RBI groundout, and that let starting pitcher Mikey Kroll go to work with a huge mental advantage.
His biggest moment came in the third inning after Slammers Nolte scored three runs to draw within 6-3. With a high fastball, he struck out a power hitter, and the frame ended when a baserunner was thrown out at first despite lashing the ball to right field.
"He kept fouling it off and fouling it off, so I just tried to throw a plus (fastball) harder, and it worked out," said Kroll, who pitched 4 1/3 solid innings. "It feels good (to pitch) in a big situation, and I really didn't want to screw up. I tried to relax between games, drink a lot of water and get my head on straight."
Wells agreed that it took a few moments to get in the right mood after losing to the Nolte squad, and those early runs proved essential to the cause.
"The hot start gave us a ton of momentum; we wasted a lot of things in the first game, but this time we got the bats going," Wells said. "We were all down, but we said, we have one more in us. Mikey was just throwing strikes, which is all he needs to do when he's throwing gas."
The Nolte team got three hits, two runs and two RBI from Gaige Cook, and Juan Pablo added two hits and two RBI. The game ended on a nearly disastrous note, on a fly ball from Pablo that went to right-center field. Gavin Marsh made the catch but collided with Brayden Lashier, and both fielders were laid out on the field. As it turned out, the ball was thrown back to first in time to double-up a baserunner, and the game was over.
"It's exactly what we talked about in between games. We hit the reset button, got some food and shade, and all year these boys have never given up," said Altitude head coach Brad Marsh. "When you're in a stressful situation (Kroll's big strikeout moment), the heart of their lineup, when you can elevate a fastball and get that strikeout swinging, it really pumps the guys up. Mike has done that all season; we put him out there for the biggest game of the year for us.
"Last week we won the Colorado State Championships and have been riding that high ever since. We played some good clubs this week ... quality defense, hit the ball, and never stopped pushing. This shows you the quality of baseball in Colorado."